I am watching Half the Sky. I am feeling the weight of the world in my heart.
“…when rape is unfortunate but forgivable.”
A quote from the documentary on PBS I learned about thanks to a Facebook message from Kelly “MochaMomma” Wickham in which actress and activist America Ferrera retweeted a message from Kelly about watching the show with her son. If you take a moment to look, you’ll find many social media updates from the celebrities involved in the movement.
Women supporting women through social media in a world where in so many countries and cultures women are … disposable. Young girls are raped, sexually mutilated, sold into sex trafficking, and shamed into silence. Three-year-old girls sold into brothels in Cambodia. A fourteen-year-old and her mother kicked out of her home for shaming their family when speaking up against the man who have raped the teen.
Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn co-authored the book that has turned into so much more than just words on paper. Now, the documentary takes viewers to meet social entrepreneurs in Cambodia and Kenya, women leaders in Somaliland and India, and Americans partnering with many kinds of local change-makers.
A rape survivor accuses her uncle of sexual assault, knowing she is challenging an entire culture and way of life. A woman sold into the sex trade industry as a young child who doesn’t remember her true name is now the voice of hope for sex trade workers in Cambodia. Women forced into victim-hood empowering others to speak out because it is only in speaking out and bringing awareness that the seed of change can even begin to be planted.
A two year-old raped and turned over to a brothel because her mother no longer wanted her. Her rescuer, the woman who does not remember her true name, hates her body because her body brought her pain.
It is that pain that she has turned into strength, for herself and so many others.
Sometimes I am asked about why I started Girl Body Pride. Sometimes I say it is because I think women need to know it is okay to love ourselves just the way we are. Soeb/20160331085336/https://www.facebook.com/hHalf the Sky metimes I say it because we all need to build ourselves up by building up those around us because it is so much easier to tell another human being how incredible they are than it is to believe it of ourselves. Sometimes it’s more than that.
Girl Body Pride is not just about making peace with our cellulite or our changing bodies or telling the world why we can’t focus on making healthier choices for our bodies until we have healed whatever it is within us that has made us believe we are not worth the effort and self-love those healthy choices entail. It’s about finding our Why and addressing it and retraining our brains to understand ours is the only perception that matters when looking at our reflections in the mirror.
Half the Sky brought that point home to me tonight as I’ve been wrestling with my own truths and motivations for embracing body image activism and telling you how beautiful you are just the way you are.
I believe the words when I speak them to you.
Because of a Facebook update by Kelly and a tweet by America and a television screen full of survivors and the book that inspired it all, I sent signed up to become an advocate, submitted my own story for possible inclusion on the Half the Sky blog, and now I’m terrified. I’m reminded of the bravery of the women featured in Half the Sky and I thank them for their courage for that is where I draw my own.
So here is my truth: I am the 34-year-old woman with a lifetime of self-hate and blame who had been convinced I was born evil until I looked into the innocence that is my five-year-old daughter’s eyes. Two of my earliest memories are of “letting” older male cousins or friends have sex with me before I even started kindergarten because it wasn’t rape unless you fought and screamed and cried. Instead, I was driven to act out with similarly-aged children and felt shame because there were parts that felt good and I didn’t know better.
I look into my daughter’s eyes and ask myself if her future is worth my truth. Can I raise her to be proud of who she is if she believes me not be be proud of myself and who I am? Can I stomach the idea of her keeping secrets buried deep because she thinks she will be left alone and unloved when she opens her mouth and speaks? No. I can’t. So I Google phrases like “overly sexualized children” in an attempt to understand the past. And the internet tells what I am.
I am the product of a sexually reactive childhood. I am being told the behavior most likely stemmed from abuse I don’t remember. I am being told that a girl not even in kindergarten cannot consent to sex. That is my truth under my half of the sky.